I've seen a rash of reports in the Yahoo! chicken groups recently about neighbors complaining about perfectly legal urban chickens doing perfectly normal chicken things. It's the neighbors that seem a bit, well, uptight and unreasonable. (Our legal chickens have been reported by an anonymous neighbor, too)
A certain discussion's been tumbling around the Silicon Valley Chickens Yahoo! Group discussion regarding an urban chicken owner whose neighbor called in the city to investigate her chickens saying there was a rooster on premises (there wasn't). Upon finding there was no rooster, the enforcement officer then cited the owner for having a "too small yard" and asked the owner to get signatures from neighbors agreeing the chickens were okay. Not an unreasonable request, right?
Lisa "the Chicken Lady" Green then added a gem to the discussion:
It feels so horrible to have this happen. Write a letter to accompany your neighbor's signatures. Include the fact that most chickens are usually kept legally in coops with a 4'squ / bird recommendation. Therefore your yard should be adequate. I have seen very successful 4-H coop/run combos for up to fifteen full sized hens that measure three by eight covered with wall mount laying boxes and a three by ten open run ( 3.5'/bird).I agree with Lisa, we do need to fight these things. It's understandable that we need to be considerate of people's wanting relative quiet in our urban neighborhoods, but when chickens are singled out unfairly, we need to push back.
Remember to note the change in complaint in your letter, of course state it as an error. Go on line and read carefully the ordinance. If you are within legal limits and there is no "neighbor complaint" clause you may be OK. You can often use the letter of the law to your advantage, (and of course the overwhelming support of most of your neighbors). Also remember that the officer that came out may not have had all the facts. People don't always to their jobs properly. You can also contact UC Davis and your local 4-H for advice and arm yourself with their standards for care.
See if you can get to the Animal Control Dispatch supervisor. Describe your situation and request that the complaining neighbor be contacted. Sometimes and offer to see the set up, try some eggs, and work out solutions is all it takes. They won't let you contact them but could pass along the message and request a meeting. Some people complain not because they really are affected by the noise but because they don't like anyone to get away with anything. If they thought you had a rooster and find out that you don't that may be it. (Or they may have used that to get Animal Control to come out).
But we need to fight these things.
It's amazing how effectively the brain can become accustomed to the sound of horns, sirens, dogs, kids and other urban dwellers yet the clucking of a chicken will be the proverbial straw breaking the camel's back. As chickens become more integrated into urban life again, hopefully the clucking and bawking will fade into the background like all the other urban sounds we've become used to.
BTW, did you know there are over 3,600 Yahoo! groups relating to chickens, you really should find one near you to join as they're full of good neighborly advice like what Lisa's sharing, and they'll let you know what other chickens around you are experiencing in terms of molt, reaction to storms, etc.
Photo Credit: artwerk by alphadesigner on Flickr